Australia is targeting more food exports to the booming Asian markets, particularly China and India.
“The register will provide the community with a more comprehensive picture of the specific size and locations of foreign agricultural landholdings over and above what is currently available,” the prime minister said.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said global food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050 to meet demand.
Australia’s official data on foreign owners of farms is patchy, with only one state holding a register and with small purchases by private investors not subject to national foreign investment approvals.
Gillard said existing data showed foreign investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry accounted for just 0.1 percent of foreign investment in Australia.
The peak farmers group the National Farmers’ Federation said the ownership register was crucial for Australia.
“We do want to see greater transparency around investment to ensure that the motivations behind this investment are clear,” Federation president Jock Laurie said.